Improved Outer Tactical Vest

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The Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) in Universal Camouflage Pattern, was issued to U.S. Army soldiers deploying to the Iraq War.

The Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV), is an enhanced version of, and a replacement for, the older Outer Tactical Vest variant of the Interceptor body armor, as fielded by the United States Army. The IOTV is compatible with the Deltoid and Axillary Protector System (DAPS) components, ESAPI (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert), Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts (ESBI), as well as the OTV's groin protector.

The OTV design was considered insufficient and lacking in certain areas, which led to the IOTV's development and fielding. The IOTV is currently produced by Point Blank Body Armor, BAE Systems,[1] KDH Defense Systems,[2] Protective Products Enterprises,[3] UNICOR and Creative Apparel Associates. The IOTV first saw action in combat with U.S. Army ground combat units in late 2007/early 2008, and along with the Interceptor body armor currently remains the standard body armor type used by regular U.S. Army ground combat units overseas.

Technical details[edit]

A U.S. Army soldier from the 25th Infantry Division wears an Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) in Iraq in February 2008.

A size Medium IOTV weighs 3.6 pounds less than a Medium OTV vest, while providing more coverage. However, a fully equipped IOTV, complete with all its components (soft armor panel inserts, four ballistic plate inserts (front and back plates and two side plates), collar, and groin protectors) still weighs 30 pounds (13.6 kg), with a Large IOTV weighing about 35 pounds (15.9 kg). The functionality of the enhanced side ballistic inserts, which provide coverage under the arms and down the sides of the torso, is built into the IOTV.

The IOTV provides the ability to don the vest in two ways. The first is to simply place the vest over the head and pull down, and the second is to remove fasteners on the wearer's left shoulder, sliding into the vest to the right. To complete the procedure for both methods the wearer then lifts up the front panel of the vest and fastens the waistband, which takes the weight of the vest off the shoulders somewhat, and then fastens the side protection modules.

A key design feature for the IOTV is that the entire armor system is able to be released with the pull of a hidden lanyard. The armor then falls apart into its component pieces, providing a means for escape in case the wearer falls into water or becomes trapped in a hazardous environment.[4] The hidden release lanyard also allows medical personnel easier access to a casualty, which was one concern that was not addressed with the old Interceptor armor.

It also features a grid of PALS webbing on the front, back, and sides for the attachment of modular pouches and accessories.

The US Army is looking into supplementing the heavy IOTV with the newer Modular Body Armor Vest (MBAV) and Soldier Plate Carrier System (SPCS) already in service in Ranger and Airborne units. The MBAV and SPCS do provide less armor coverage, but are lighter than the IOTV, thus more suitable for patrol in Afghanistan. The first units began receiving body armor on May 11, 2009.[5]

Female Model[edit]

In response to the greater numbers of female soldiers in the Army, a female-specific version of the IOTV was developed. Previously, standard tactical vests were issued to women in combat. Soldiers found that women's movement was restricted, in ways such as bending over, getting in and out of tight spaces, or positioning their rifles against their shoulders. The long armor plates inside the vests would also rub against their hips and cut into their thighs when they sat down. Development of a model for women began in 2009. After much testing and measurements, the Army came up with a vest that is shorter to accommodate smaller torsos and has tailoring to fit closer to women’s chests. The new vest eliminates gaps between the material and the body and can be fitted with smaller side ballistic inserts for small waist sizes. The vest has a lighter feel because it doesn’t rest on the female soldier’s shoulders like the normal vest. The first female soldier vests were given to soldiers deploying for Afghanistan in September 2012.[6]

Features[edit]

The IOTV is designed to take the weight of the vest off the shoulders and move it to the lower torso. The vest is also equipped with a mesh inner cover that is designed to improve airflow inside of the armor. There is also a back pad in the lower back area of the vest, which is designed to defeat fragmentation impacts to the lower back/kidney areas. However, the back pad does not provide ballistic protection. The vest can withstand a direct impact from a 7.62 millimeter (both NATO and ex-Soviet types) on the front or rear plates (SAPI NIJ standard III), however, the new E-SAPI plates will increase protection to armor-piercing rounds (NIJ standard IV). The IOTV provides, without the ballistic ceramic plates inserted, protection from small caliber rounds (i.e. 9mm) and fragmentation. The soft kevlar panels have been tested to stop 9 mm 124 grain full metal jacket bullets at 1,400 ft/s (426 m/s) with minimal deformation and has a V-50 of roughly 1,525 ft/s (465 m/s). This means that the bullet has to be traveling faster than 1,525 ft/s for it to have more than a 50% chance of breaking through the soft armor panel. These specifications are similar to the NIJ standard level III-A certification, however, military standards do not require their vests to be NIJ certified. This is a huge improvement over the PASGT vest, and the Vietnam era fragmentation vest (which was made of nylon). Both only offered protection against fragmentation.

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